Find yourself in Lapland

Nhất Ngọc Trịnh, Vietnam


Read about Nhất’s crazy ice swimming experience, his special nickname Cookie, and how escaping from a big city to Lapland brought peace to his life.

“I wanted to have a space. Whenever I am home, I always hear many noises, from people and traffic. When I came to Rovaniemi, I realized that it fits my character. I seem like outgoing person, but I prefer peace and quiet.”

Tell us something about yourself.
Shortly, my name is Cookie. Everybody thinks that I like cookies, but it is all about losing my phone. I lost my phone. It used to be LG cookie phone so I made my nickname after it. Now everyone here calls me Cookie. I did my bachelor degree in English studies back in Hanoi, capital city of Vietnam. I have worked for almost 4 and half years. Then I decided to move and study abroad.

Why did you decide to leave?

Well, I think I am getting dumber [laugh]. After I worked for many years, I think I got a bit dumb so I thought I have to go somewhere, experience something new, and learn new things. I wanted to specialize in my favorite area of media.

Why Lapland?
I have been admiring Finland for a long time. Back in Vietnam, we got a lot of information regarding education system in Finland. I was a bit curious whether the education in Finland was as good as I heard or not. Then I decided to apply for many scholarships in different universities. I sent few to some universities in Finland as well. Then I got some scholarships from other universities but I still wanted to go to Finland. I wanted to see if it is as I have heard about it. Now I am here and I feel good. I wanted to do something that is close to my specialization. That is why I chose to come to Lapland, to University of Lapland.

What were the challenges you had faced here?
I have been living in a capital city for a long time in Vietnam, with almost 9, 000 000 people. When I moved here, there were no people on the streets. I searched for some information about Finland before moving here. I found about its very small population, and even smaller one in Lapland. I had to prepare myself for that kind of living.
First days in Rovaniemi, I had to go out and find something to do. I felt a bit bored, to be honest. However, I gradually realized that I came here to study and to experience something new, something very different from my country. So I thought: “Ok, it’s fine!”. Now I feel like it is cozy and relaxing atmosphere.

Did you find yourself in Lapland?
Sure. I was kind of very busy person back in Vietnam. I always wanted to do something on my own. I wanted to have a space. Whenever I am home, I always hear many noises, from people and traffic. When I came to Rovaniemi, I realized that it fits my character. I seem like outgoing person, but I prefer peace and quiet.

Do you feel like you developed any skills while studying in Lapland?
I got the skill to survive this kind of snowy land. We have warm weather all year round. Academically, I learned a lot about my specialization. I have learned Finnish! That is the most interesting thing I learned so far. They always say that learning a new language can open a new world to you. This is my new world.

Does Lapland feel like home?
This is kind of place like home, but I still does not feel completely like home. It feels very cozy to be here. At the beginning of my staying here, it still felt like a foreign land to me. Then I decided to travel to some other cities, and whenever I came back here, I felt so safe and comfortable. In that way, I can consider it home.

Did you make any friends here?
I made many friends here, both local and foreign. People say how Finnish people are a bit cold and shy, and how they can be a bit less talkative than other foreigners can. However, when we get more close to Finns, they start to become more talkative. They are very friendly.

How do you spend your free time?
I go out for a walk, which I did not have a chance to do back in Vietnam. I was so busy as a TV reporter and editor. I worked until late night. Here, I have so much free time to take a walk and to visit all the cafés. I love to take photos of cafes and people. My passion is photography. 

Any tips for the future students who would like to apply to study at ULapland?
They should get them self-prepare for the cold weather and winter. They should not be scared of it. Even I used to be scared, coming from tropical country. However, I happily survived here. Second thing is that students here are very active and responsible for their studies. Therefore, if you are coming here for a study or exchange, you need to prepare yourself to study on your own.

How is it to study here?
This is my first time I experienced international studies. It is very different from my country. I got many classmates that are older than I am. They are plus 30 or 40, half of them are married, and they are mature and have a lot of experience. However, I think I am actually very lucky. We always have a great discussion in our classes. One of the things that can always change my mind is criticism and skepticism.

I used to be very conservative. I disliked people who disagree with my opinions. I know it is a natural instinct of human being, but I changed it here. No one is worried about anything, so I am thinking to myself: “Why should I be worried?”. We have to learn new things from others. There is always something positive you can get from negativity. It helps you to grow up, to mature.

Could you tell us more about your Media Education Master programme?
Teaching methods are very traditional back in Vietnam. It is more teacher centered. Here it is other way around. Students are the one who speak a lot during classes. Teachers are the ones who are guiding you. Students have to be responsible for themselves, for their studies.

Would you like to share something with us?
If you come here, you will find yourself. I want to say to current and prospective students, you have to embrace the differences. The more you are willing to learn (which is very crucial for your future), the more rewarded you are going to be.

Did you experience any funny moments in Lapland?
I had a crazy experience with ice swimming. I went ice swimming once. We do not have it in my country. All of my friends who went with me expected that the water would be only -1 or -3 °C. I thought I could just do it, so I jumped into the water, and at that moment, I thought I am dead! It was brutally cold. It was so cold I thought it was -10 or -15°C. We were all in swimming shorts, jumping in the water and running back to sauna. Someone asked if we should go back to the water, and I responded “NO!”. Then my friends encouraged me to go back to the water again. Than we jumped the second time, and ran back to sauna. It was my unique experience.